“She’s Just Special” JuJu Watkins’ High School Coach Explains The JuJu Magic

WHN | Feb 16, 2024

Sierra Canyon Coach Alicia Komaki opens up about Southern California’s hoop star. CHATSWORTH, CA — Deep in the San Fernando…

Subscribe now and read this article for FREE!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sierra Canyon Coach Alicia Komaki opens up about Southern California’s hoop star.

CHATSWORTH, CA — Deep in the San Fernando Valley is a private day school that has become a marvel of the athletes and sports media around the world. Sierra Canyon is a young school of 1,100 K-12 students that only founded their high school in 2005, but that doesn’t stop them from being a powerhouse for academics and athletics. 

In fact, the bougie Sierra Canyon which boasts celebrity alumni like Willow Smith and Kylie Jenner was actually founded as a summer day camp.

Now, Sierra Canyon claims two of the top women’s basketball players in the nation as their players and is trusted by Lebron James to prepare his sons for college and the NBA.

Their most notable female athlete is an 18-year-old USC freshman from Watts, JuJu Watkins.

We went to Sierra Canyon to speak with Watkins’ high school coach Alicia Komaki, who led Sierra Canyon to a California state championship with Watkins’ leadership. Komaki is a women’s basketball veteran and has led the Sierra Canyon Girls Basketball team to 7 state championships and 2 national championships. Like Watkins, her list of accolades is long. 

Komaki has even had the honor of being 1 of 4 coaches selected to coach Team USA for the U16 National Team Trials in Colorado Springs. She holds a laundry list of Coach of the Year Awards from the prestigious Naismith Award to the LA Times to the Los Angeles Daily News. Simply put, Coach Komaki is no joke. And she knows powerful talent when she sees it. 

“She’s a legend,” that’s what JuJu Watkins told GQ Sports earlier last year. “I was so excited to have her as my coach.” 

For Coach Komaki, she originally never thought she would have the opportunity to coach Watkins. 

“No chance,” said Komaki when we asked if she thought that she would have Watkins on her team. 

When Coach Komaki first saw JuJu play in middle school, she never thought that she would have the opportunity to coach the young star. “When you go to Windward, you don’t go to Sierra Canyon,” she laughed. 

Komaki says that JuJu’s decision to transition to Sierra Canyon was likely due to her coach at Windward, Vanessa Nygaard, getting tapped to coach the Phoenix Mercury. Her departure helped encourage Watkins to make her move to Sierra Canyon. 

Since Watkins has started her freshman year at USC, Komaki tells us that she’s been able to attend a few games with her team to help support the Sierra Canyon star. Since the start of her freshman year, Watkins has had an explosive start to her college career, leading the freshman class in scoring and holding the 2nd spot for total average points in NCAA Division 1 with 27.7 points per game.

When we asked Komaki if she was surprised by Watkins’ college success, she shrugged. It appears Komaki knew Watkins would have a major impact as a freshman at USC. She doesn’t seem surprised by Watkins’ success, rather, she is shocked that no one has been able to chill her offensive game.

“She really is that special,” said Komaki. “She has so many dimensions to her game that  it’s really hard to try to pick one on a scouting report to try to limit.”

This year, Watkins has nine games scoring more than 30 points and one game scoring 51 total points against Stanford. 

“I thought I would see more efforts to try to stop her,” Komaki laughed. “It’s been interesting,  again, I haven’t seen every single game, but it’s been interesting that I haven’t seen a variety of defenses or people taking away her transition game or some of the things that we know she’s really good at. And also, you just can’t do it. She’s just that good.” 

This is the first installment in a series of articles about JuJu Watkins, Coach Komaki, and Sierra Canyon. More pieces will be released throughout the next few days with the entire interview to follow on YouTube. 

Keeping Maryland Competitive Amidst The Ever-Changing College Basketball Landscape

WHN | Jun 5, 2024

WNBA Could Increase Media Rights Fees To $240 Million

WHN | Jun 14, 2024

Phoenix Mercury Signs Charisma Osborne

WHN | Jun 13, 2024

Iowa Alum Molly Davis Joins Coaching Staff Of Division 1 Program

WHN | Jun 12, 2024

WNBA Trash Talking Is Good, Actually

WHN | Jun 12, 2024

Pat Summitt’s Legacy Lives On In Candace Parker’s New Family Addition

WHN | Jun 11, 2024

Kyra Elzy Joins Duke As Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach

WHN | Jun 10, 2024